Passion, p.35
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       Passion, p.35

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 35

 

  Dani, Cam warned. Nothing you can say will fix this.

  Thats right. Its broken. Lilith let go, and Cam fell backward into the dirt. She picked up their marriage contract and flung it into the river. It spun slowly in the current and sank. I hope I live a thousand years and have a thousand daughters so there will always be a woman who can curse your name. She spat in his face, then turned and ran back to the temple, her white dress flowing behind her like a sail.

  Cams face turned as white as Liliths wedding robe. He reached for Danis hand to help himself up. Do you have a starshot, Dani?

  No. Danis voice shook. Dont talk like that. Youll get her back, or else--

  I was na?ve to think I could have gotten away with loving a mortal woman.

  If youd only told her, Dani said.

  Told her? What happened to me--to all of us? The Fall and everything since? Cam leaned closer to Dani. Maybe shes right about me. You heard her: The whole village thinks I am a demon. Even if they wont use the word.

  They know nothing.

  Cam turned away. All this time Ive been trying to deny it, but love is impossible, Dani.

  It is not.

  It is. For souls like ours. Youll see. You may hold out longer than I could, but youll see. Both of us will eventually have to choose.

  "No. "

  So quick to protest, brother. Cam squeezed Danis shoulder. It makes me wonder about you. Dont you ever think about it . . . crossing over?

  Dani shrugged away. I think about her and only her. I count the seconds until shell be with me again. I choose her, as she chooses me.

  How lonely.

  Its not lonely, Dani barked. Its love. The love you want for yourself, too--

  I meant: Im lonely. And far less noble than you are. Any day. I fear a change is coming on.

  No. Now Dani moved toward Cam. You wouldnt.

  Cam reared away and spat. Not all of us are lucky enough to be bound to our lover by a curse.

  Daniel remembered this empty insult: It had made him furious. But still, he shouldnt have said what came next:

  Go, then. You wont be missed.

  He regretted it instantly, but it was too late.

  Cam rolled back his shoulders and threw out his arms. When his wings bloomed at his sides, they sent a burst of hot wind rippling across the grass where Daniel, Shelby, and Miles were hiding. The three of them peered up. His wings were massive and glowing and--

  Wait a minute, Shelby whispered. Theyre not gold!

  Miles blinked. How can they not be gold? Of course the Nephilim would be confused. The pision of wing color was as clear as night and day: gold for demons, silver or white for everyone else. And the Cam they knew was a demon. Daniel was in no mood to explain to Shelby why Cams wings were pure, bright white, as radiant as diamonds, glistening like sun-kissed snow.

  This long-ago Cam had not crossed over yet. He was merely on the brink.

  That day Lilith lost Cam as a lover, and Daniel lost him as a brother. From this day on, they would be enemies. Could Daniel have stopped him? What if he hadnt spun away from Cam and unfurled his own wings like a shield--the way he watched Dani do now?

  He should have. He burned to burst forth from the bushes and stop Cam now. How much could be different!

  Cams and Danis wings did not yet have the tortured magnetic pull toward each other. All that repelled them in this moment was a stubborn difference of opinion, a philosophical sibling rivalry.

  Both angels rose from the ground at the same time, each facing a different direction. So when Dani soared east across the sky and Cam soared west, the three Anachronisms hiding in the grass were the only ones to see the gleam of gold bite into Cams wings. Like a sparkling lightning bolt.

  Chapter Seventeen

  WRITTEN IN BONE

  YIN, CHINA QING MING

  At the far end of the Announcers tunnel was an engulfing brightness. It kissed her skin like a summer morning at her parents house in Georgia.

  Luce plunged toward it.

  Unbridled glory. That was what Bill had called the burning light of Daniels true soul. Merely looking upon Daniels pure angelic self had made an entire community of people at the Mayan sacrifice spontaneously combust--including Ix Cuat, Luces past self.

  But there had been a moment.

  A moment of pure wonder just before she died, when Luce had felt closer to Daniel than she ever had before. She didnt care what Bill said: She recognized the glow of Daniels soul. She had to see it again. Maybe there was some way she could live through it. She had to at least try.

  She burst out of the Announcer into the cold emptiness of a colossal bedroom.

  The chamber was at least ten times bigger than any room Luce had ever seen, and everything about it was lavish. The floors were crafted of smoothest marble and covered by enormous rugs made of whole animal skins, one of which had an intact tigers head. Four timber pillars held up a finely thatched gabled ceiling. The walls were made of woven bamboo. Near the open window was an enormous canopy bed with sheets of green-gold silk. A tiny telescope rested on the windows ledge. Luce picked it up, parting the gold silk curtain to peer outside. The telescope was heavy and cold when she held it up to her eye.

  She was in the center of a great walled city, looking down from a second story. A maze of stone roadways connected crammed, ancient-looking wattle-and-daub structures. The air was warm and smelled softly of cherry blossoms. A pair of orioles crossed the blue sky.

  Luce turned to Bill. Where are we? This place seemed as foreign as the world of the Mayans, and just as far back in time.

  He shrugged and opened his mouth to speak, but then--

  Shhh, Luce whispered.

  Sniffling.

  Someone was crying soft, hushed tears. Luce turned toward the noise. There, through an archway on the far side of the room, she heard the sound again.

  Luce moved toward the archway, sliding along the stone floor in her bare feet. The sobbing echoed, beckoning her. A narrow walkway opened up into another cavernous chamber. This one was windowless, with low ceilings, dimly lit by the glow of a dozen small bronze lamps.

  She could make out a large stone basin, and a small lacquered table stocked with black pottery vials of aromatic oils that gave the whole room a warm and spicy smell. A gigantic carved jade wardrobe stood in the corner of the room. Thin green dragons etched into its face sneered at Luce, as if they knew everything she didnt.

  And in the center of the chamber, a dead man lay sprawled on the floor.

  Before Luce could see anything more, she was blinded by a bright light moving toward her. It was the same glow shed sensed from the other side of the Announcer.

  What is that light? she asked Bill.

  That . . . er, you see that? Bill sounded surprised. Thats your soul. Yet another way for you to recognize your past lives when they appear physically different from you. He paused. Youve never noticed it before?

  This is the first time, I think.

  Huh, Bill said. Thats a good sign. Youre making progress.

  Luce felt heavy and exhausted all of a sudden. I thought it was going to be Daniel.

  Bill cleared his throat like he was going to say something, but he didnt. The glow burned brightly for another heartbeat, then snapped out so suddenly she couldnt see for a moment, until her eyes adjusted.

  What are you doing here? a voice asked roughly.

  Where the light had been, in the center of the room, was a thin, pretty Chinese girl about seventeen--too young and too elegant to be standing over a dead mans body.

  Dark hair hung to her waist, contrasting with her floor-length white silk robe. Dainty as she was, she seemed the kind of girl who didnt shy away from a fight.

  So, thats you, Bills voice said in Luces ear. Your name is Lu Xin and you lived outside the capital city of Yin. Were at the close of the Shang dynasty, something like a thousand BCE, in case you want to make a note for your scrapbo
ok.

  Luce probably seemed crazy to Lu Xin, barging in here wearing a singed animal hide and a necklace made out of bone, her hair a wild and tangled snarl. How long had it been since shed looked in a mirror? Had a bath? Plus, she was talking to an invisible gargoyle.

  But then again, Lu Xin was standing vigil over a dead guy, giving Luce dont-mess-with-me eyes, so she seemed a little crazy herself.

  Oh boy. Luce hadnt noticed the jade knife with the turquoise-studded handle, or the small pond of blood in the middle of the marble floor.

  What do I-- she started to ask Bill.

  You. Lu Xins voice was surprisingly strong. Help me hide his body.

  The dead mans hair was white around his temples; he looked about sixty years old, lean and muscular underneath many elaborate robes and embroidered cloaks.

  I--um, I dont really think--

  As soon as they learn the king is dead, you and I will be dead, too.

  What? Luce asked. Me?

  You, me, most of the people inside these walls. Where else will they find the thousand sacrificial bodies that must be buried with the despot? The girl wiped her cheeks dry with slender, jade-ringed fingers. Will you help me or not?

  At the girls request, Luce moved to help pick up the kings feet. Lu Xin readied herself to lift him under his arms. The king, Luce said, spouting out the old Shang words as if shed spoken them forever. Was he--

  It is not as it appears. Lu Xin grunted under the weight of the body. The king was heavier than he looked. I did not kill him. At least not--she paused--physically. He was dead when I walked into the room. She sniffed. He stabbed himself in the heart. I used to say he did not have one, but he has proven me wrong.

  Luce looked at the mans face. One of his eyes was open. His mouth was twisted. He looked as if hed left this world in agony. Was he your father?

  By then theyd reached the huge jade wardrobe. Lu Xin wedged its door open with her hip, took a step backward, and dropped her half of the body inside.

  He was to be my husband, she said coldly. And a horrible one at that. The ancestors approved of our marriage, but I did not. Rich, powerful older men are nothing to be grateful for, if one enjoys romance. She studied Luce, who lowered the kings feet slowly to the floor of the wardrobe. What part of the plains do you come from that word of the kings betrothal had not reached you? Lu Xin had noticed Luces Mayan clothing. She picked at the hem of the short brown skirt. Did they hire you to perform at our wedding? Are you some sort of dancer? A clown?

  Not exactly. Luce felt her cheeks flush as she tugged the skirt lower on her hips. Look, we cant just leave his body here. Someones going to find out. I mean, hes the king, right? And theres blood everywhere.

  Lu Xin reached into the dragon wardrobe and pulled out a crimson silk robe. She dropped to her knees and tore a large strip of fabric from it. It was a beautiful soft silk garment, with small black blossoms embroidered around the neckline. But Lu Xin didnt think twice about using it to mop up the blood on the floor. She snatched a second, blue robe and tossed it to Luce to help with the mopping.

  Okay, Luce said, well, theres still that knife. She pointed at the gleaming bronze dagger coated up to the hilt with the kings blood.

  In a flash, Lu Xin slipped the knife inside a fold of her robe. She looked up at Luce, as if to say Anything else?

  Whats that over there? Luce pointed to what looked like the top of a small turtles shell. Shed seen it fall out of the kings hand when they moved his body.

  Lu Xin was on her knees. She tossed down the sopping bloodstained rag and cupped the shell between her hands. The oracle bone, she said softly. More important than any king.

  What is it?

  This holds answers from the Deity Above.

 

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